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Loose drain cover stops F1 testing for the second day in a row

F1 Testing F1 Testing - The Canadian Press

SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — Max Verstappen called for Formula 1 venues to “double-check” the safety of objects around the track after a loose drain cover interrupted preseason testing for the second day running Friday.

The cover flew up when Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez drove over a curb, causing a red-flag stoppage to the morning session after just half an hour amid repairs and an inspection of the area.

Carlos Sainz Jr.’s Ferrari was badly damaged by a water valve cover in practice for the Las Vegas Grand Prix in November, underlining the risks.

Defending F1 champion Verstappen said the issue might be made worse by the ground-effect aerodynamics introduced in 2022, where the floor is shaped to generate grip against the track surface.

“Before you start driving on the weekend, to double-check that everything is solid, I think, is a must for the upcoming tracks, so that we don’t have another situation where cars get destroyed," Verstappen said. "Especially with the budget cap in place as well, it’s not nice when these things happen.”

Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, Sainz's teammate, was one of the drivers who hit another loose drain cover Thursday. The cover shattered in that incident, scattering debris and leaving Ferrari to check his car's floor for damage.

“It’s a serious issue because it can have big consequences,” Leclerc said. “We have to look into it for the future for it to not happen again. Because yesterday we were quite lucky that it didn’t happen in a place and in a situation similar to Vegas, but in Vegas it was quite serious for Carlos.”

Leclerc set the pace on the track Friday in the third and last day of testing. His fastest time was .046 seconds quicker than George Russell of Mercedes, while Zhou Guanyu was third-fastest for Sauber. Verstappen was fourth for Red Bull.

Times in testing are rarely a good guide to teams' true pace for a Grand Prix because different teams can be using very different tires, setups and fuel loads. The three drivers ahead of Verstappen on Friday all set their teams on softer, grippier tires.

The season begins with the Bahrain Grand Prix next week. That race and the second round of the season in Saudi Arabia are being held on Saturdays, rather than the usual Sunday date for F1 races.


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